REAFFIRMATION OF DISBELIEF: Please don't believe the people you trust!


Part 3—Cable stars wanna have fun:
Is Donald J. Trump, the commander in chief, some version of mentally ill?

If so, how dangerous could that possibly be? Of what might he be capable should he reach a breaking point?

We find few signs that our corporate stars are able to focus on such questions. While we're at it, we'll throw in a few more:

Is quadrennial impeachment becoming the norm for our political system? If so, will the federal government ever be able to function again?

For ourselves, we see The Chase after Donald J. Trump as a highly dangerous activity.

As of February 2016, Candidate Trump had begun to seem, to us, as perhaps some form of "mentally ill." Today, he holds the nuclear codes. As The Chase against him becomes more naked, he strikes us as more and more dangerous.

We see no sign that our corporate stars are able to think in such ways. Indeed, on Wednesday night, our tribe's biggest star began her program like this:
ANONYMOUS CORPORATE STAR (8/29/18): And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

The past 24 hours have been a news cycle with lots of unexpected twists and turns, lots of little plot surprises, unexpected endings. That has made this sort of a fun day to be in the news business as my job, right?

Because it's one of those days where nothing turns out the way people expected it to. And that makes, that's—

It's discombobulating! But it can also be fun,
and it's humbling in all the right ways.
According to this major star, there had been "lots of little plot surprises" that day. This meant that the day had been fun, at least for her. It had been "sort of a fun day to be in the news business as my job, right?"

This cable star rarely fails to bring it all back to herself. But we were struck by the way she said, two separate times, that the day had been fun.

We've long wondered if something might be a bit "wrong" with this particular star. We've long thought that her instincts tend to be slightly "off," in ways her owners work hard to disguise.

(The photo at her program's site show you the way her owners want you to perceive her. The constant forced chuckling is part of this game. "The news," which is now a branch of show business, involves layers of disguise.)

In the first segment of Wednesday's show, the star went to to discuss the "plot surprises" that had made the day so much fun, at least for her in her job. Since we had found the day disturbing, depressing and loaded with potential danger, we leaned forward, eager to hear the sources of her joy.

The first plot surprise was Andrew Gillum's win in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in Florida—a plot surprise which had already produced the latest race-based dispute between the two tribes. However one may try to approach them, it won't be easy to recover from these "culture war" divisions—but at this site, the upset win had been fun.

Believe it or not, the second surprise which had made the day fun involved the revelation that a Democratic candidate for the House "apparently had her full unredacted security clearance application not just released by the Trump administration without her permission, which is illegal, but the Trump administration apparently released it to a Republican opposition research effort, which then did immediately start using that security clearance application against her in her congressional campaign."

The star went on to say that this might happen to other Democratic House candidates too. This was the second plot surprise which had made her day fun.

The third plot surprise which had made the day fun involved the tweet by the commander in chief which showed Don McGahn the door. The star noted that McGahn, the White House counsel, is "potentially a sort of super witness for" the Mueller probe, thus adding to the fun.

From there, the star ran through other greatest hits, not excluding the sexy-time misadventures of Elliott Broidy, along with recent insignificant statements by George Papadopoulos' "somewhat inscrutable Italian wife." At one point, though, it must be said, the major star also said this:
UNNAMED MAJOR STAR: To the extent that the current White House counsel Don McGahn has prevented the president from acting on some of his most destructive impulses particularly when it comes to the Russia investigation, Don McGahn leaving sort of creates a new X factor, a new unknown in terms of us as Americans trying to anticipate, trying to prepare for the ways this president might handle or try to manage some of the increasingly intense legal stuff that is swirling around the president and the White House when it comes to the ongoing scandal.
According to the cable star, Don McGahn, who's been shown the door, "has prevented the president from acting on some of his most destructive impulses" in the face of the Mueller probe.

His impending departure will therefore make it harder "to anticipate [or] prepare for the ways this president might handle or try to manage some of the increasingly intense legal stuff that is swirling around" him.

To the cable star, this is fun. To us, this seems rather dangerous.

We don't think this is all a game—a game for which a few lucky corporate duckies get paid millions of dollars. We regard President Trump as a dangerous, disordered person.

We assume he may be some version of mentally ill, and he holds the nuclear codes. We know of no obvious reason to think that he would never use, or attempt to use, these codes as a way of "trying to manage some of the increasingly intense legal stuff that is swirling around him."

We regard President Trump as a dangerous person. On a slightly lesser plain, we regard the movement toward presumptive quadrennial impeachment as a threat to our democracy's basic functioning, even though it generates short-term excitement and fun.

We regard Donald J. Trump as a deeply dangerous person. On our tribe's favorite corporate channel, an array of multimillionaire hosts regard the president as a source of entertainment, profit and "plot surprises," and of course as an endless source of a peculiar version of "fun."

These people are branded as tribal savants. That said, personality disorders, even illness, can appear all over the map.

Corporate branding makes them our leaders. In our view, serious liberals should learn to distrust their basic instincts.

Tomorrow: In search of a hidden Deep State

BREAKING: There's no safe amount of journalism!


When great apes reason, part 1:
Is Aaron Carroll an employee of the New York Times?

We aren't exactly sure. He has an Upshot feature in today's Times, but his formal identity line at the Times reads exactly like this:
Aaron E. Carroll is a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine who blogs on health research and policy at The Incidental Economist and makes videos at Healthcare Triage. He is the author of The Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully.
Does he also work for the Times? As usual, we can't quite tell.

That said, Carroll is no ordinary journalist. As you can see, he's a med school professor—and he generally seems to know what he's talking about!

He tends to display basic nuance skills! His analysis piece in today's Times starts exactly as shown below, hard-copy headline included:
CARROLL (8/29/18): A Measured Look at a Study That Alarmed Some Drinkers

Last week a paper was published in The Lancet
that claimed to be the definitive study on the benefits and dangers of drinking. The news was apparently not good for those who enjoy alcoholic beverages. It was covered in the news media with headlines like “There’s No Safe Amount of Alcohol.”

The truth is much less newsy and much more measured.
Oof! Carroll even provides a link to this live report from CNN. He has accurately quoted its headline:
CNN: There's no safe amount of alcohol, study says
Similar headlines appeared elsewhere. Below you see two examples:
New York Daily News: Consumption of alcohol is never safe: Brit study

Philadelphia Inquirer: There’s no ‘safe’ level of alcohol consumption, study finds
We're even willing to tell you this. Online, though not in print editions, the New York Times reported on the study under this headline:
New York Times: How Much Alcohol Is Safe to Drink? None, Say These Researchers
There's no safe amount of alcohol? The New York Times ran a version of that headline itself!

We'll say, right now, that this topic rings bells because it so closely resembles the journalism concerning lead exposure which emerged from events in Flint. But for the moment, let's take a quick look at what Carroll says about alcohol and safety.

In essence, he says these headlined claims are overwrought and in that sense misleading. When he starts "interpreting the results," this is his first example:
CARROLL: The news warns that even one drink per day carries a risk. But how great is that risk?

For each set of 100,000 people who have one drink a day per year, 918 can expect to experience one of the 23 alcohol-related problems in any year. Of those who drink nothing, 914 can expect to experience a problem. This means that 99,082 are unaffected, and 914 will have an issue no matter what. Only 4 in 100,000 people who consume a drink a day may have a problem caused by the drinking, according to this study.
It's true! Based on those data, zero drinks a day per year would (apparently) be safer than one drink a day per year. (Before he gets to this material, Carroll cites some methodological concerns.)

That said, the difference is extremely small—several light years beyond tiny. Does it make sense to broadcast scary headlines about "no safe amount" based on such tiny additional risk?

Full disclosure! The safety risk does increase with increased consumption. Carroll continues as shown:
CARROLL (continuing directly): At two drinks per day, the number experiencing a problem increased to 977. Even at five drinks per day, which most agree is too much, the vast majority of people are unaffected.
Let's stick with people who quaff two drinks per day. Out of 100,000 such people, 977 will will experience some health problem of the relevant type. But that's compared to the control group, in which 914 total abstainers will experience some similar problem.

Based upon these data, it's true—it's safer not to drink at all. That said, it doesn't seem to be much safer, at least not at moderate rates of consumption.

What would be the sensible way to report such findings? In line with other observations about the limitations of the type of study in question, Carroll argues that these screaming headlines cause people to misunderstand the seriousness of what is being reported.

According to Carroll, "Too many people interpret" these studies "with panic-inducing results." He says those headlines stood atop reporting which was admittedly "newsy" but insufficiently "measured."

The New York Times done good today in publishing Carroll's analysis. For ourselves, we were instantly struck by the contrast between the headlines Carroll cited and the underwhelming data he soon provided.

As noted, this recalled the reporting out of Flint—the reporting out of Flint, and the unfortunate propagandization.

Again and again, we were told, concerning Flint, that there is "no safe amount of exposure to lead," especially for children. The people who kept saying this were generally the ones who kept saying, excitingly, that a whole city had been "poisoned."

Rachel Maddow was a prime offender. In fairness, she was trying to please us liberals as she tried to get the governor of Michigan thrown into jail.

Over at Mother Jones, Kevin Drum kept presenting the actual data. It's true that any exposure to lead can have negative effects, especially for children. But at the level of exposure at issue in Flint, the likely effects were remarkably small.

The likely effects were very small! But apes like Maddow kept disappearing such facts, leading to the "tragedy" Drum reported in this January 2017 post.

Drum's post was based on a report in the New Yorker. Kids in Flint kept hearing that they'd been "poisoned." Sensibly but inaccurately, some concluded that their lives had been ruined. When great apes attempt to reason, children like these get hurt.

Again, we want to be fair. Maddow's endless propagandization probably helped her ratings. This put more money into the hands of her corporate owners. It also increased her fame.

That said, there were downsides. Her viewers got made extremely dumb, and a bunch of kids got grossly abused. (So did their parents.) According to leading anthropologists, this sort of thing happens, again and again, when members of our floundering branch of the great apes try to reason.

This afternoon, or tomorrow, we'll offer "When great apes reason, part 2." A warning to those who may tend to get upset:

The Times has done "deseg" again!

REAFFIRMATION OF DISBELIEF: Important public announcement!


Services postponed:
This series will resume tomorrow. Today, we'll offer an unpleasant two-part report, "When great apes attempt to reason, Part 1 and Part 2."

We apologize for the delay and also, while we're at it, for the whole goldarn human race!

BREAKING: Instant answers to key questions!


Today's question comes from Slate:
Slate's Leon Neyfakh is producing a serial examination of—what else?—Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

Not that there's anything wrong with it! At any rate, we're prepared to offer an instant response to today's key question:
NEYFAKH (8/29/18): What happened between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky? Why did it happen? And what are we supposed to do about the fact that the whims and impulses of individual men can—and constantly do—alter the course of history?
"Why did it happen?" No really—that's what it says!

We'll note that Lewinsky's whims and impulses were part of the mix there too. That said, we can offer an instant answer to Neyfakh's key question. Our answer will take the form of a second question:

What are we supposed to do about matters like that? Learn how to mind our own business?

(Or does Neyfakh attempt to micromanage everyone's private affairs? Warning! World population is currently more than seven billion.)

One more question: Who made Lewinsky's later life such hell? Was Bill Clinton mainly at fault? Or was it perhaps the many great apes who function like peeping Toms?

One of the best jokes we ever heard: We wouldn't have told the joke ourselves, because it mocked a belief we ourselves wouldn't mock.

That said, the joke was wickedly great. It was a scathing attack on "pro-life" belief. Its punchline went something like this:

"I think life begins at the point when you learn how to mind your own business."

We're fairly sure we recall whose joke that was, but we aren't entirely sure. We wouldn't have told the joke ourselves, but it was an extremely sharp joke. It packed a punch the way you'd like a topical joke to do.

BREAKING: Satirical film predicted cable!


Devolved apes sifting the news:
Years ago, we settled on our three favorite movies of all time. Although we'd love to add Blue Crush, there has been no turning back:
Casablanca (1942)
Notorious (1946)
My Brilliant Career (1979)
Casablanca presents the most insightful (and humorous) view of human nature ever captured on film. In Notorious, Hitchcock explored the question our public discourse has finally caught up to:

Why do (some) men—indeed, perhaps many—seem to loathe women so?

My Brilliant Career? We'll let you supply the capsule.

It's clear that we may need to add a fourth film to the mix. We refer to The Planet of the Apes (1968), which satirically offered a less sanguine view of human potential.

In Planet of the Apes, three members of our own species, Homo sapiens, crash land on an unknown planet. Spoiler alert:

At the end of the film, they realize that they're actually on the planet Earth, way off in the future! The planet is now in the hands of a devolved species which closely resembles a group of talking great apes.

These apes speak English, but that's pretty much it. A few among them maintain "human values." Most seem to be greatly devolved.

We thought of this film in the first twelve minutes of a certain cable news program last night. The segment suggested the possibility that, no matter how devolved our "cable news" gets, no one will ever notice.

The program's host devoted the first twelve minutes of her program to an increasingly familiar task. She spent the time reading amazingly tedious parts of the transcript of yesterday's pretrial hearing for the upcoming Manafort trial.

Just how thoroughly inconsequential was yesterday's pretrial hearing? So inconsequential that it wasn't covered in this morning's hard-copy New York Times at all.

In the hard-copy Washington Post, where it qualifies as a local event, the hearing was covered in a 340-word news report. (Online, the report is longer.)

In hard copy, the 340-word Post report appeared below the fold on page A4. You get the nugget of the report in the hard-copy headline:
Manafort trial in D.C. is delayed by a week
There you have it! The upcoming trial, Manafort's second, had been scheduled to begin in D.C. on September 17. As a result of yesterday's hearing, it's now scheduled to begin on September 24.

The Post and the Times both seemed to feel that this was trivial stuff. But on the cable news program in question, the host devoted her first twelve minutes to reading the utterly trivial transcript of the discussion which led to this outcome.

You can watch this host's dramatic reading yourself. To do so, just click here.

Warning! Twelve minutes into the segment, the cable host will still be staging her dramatic reading. You'll see her supplying her own inflections as she reads each participant's lines, even though she has no way of knowing how the various statements actually sounded in court.

You won't see her consult a legal expert as to whether any of this is anything other than routine. For unknown reasons, this host has fallen in love with these dramatic readings; they're now a service she supplies on a regular basis.

Just think of all the serious topics which go unreported and undiscussed as this particular host kills time in this manner! The dead of Yemen and Puerto Rico get short shrift as we're offered this puzzling product, as do the orphans of the Southern border. We're constantly struck by the weirdness of these dramatic readings—but for some reason, cable viewers seem to keep watching this show.

Viewers may think these readings must be significant if this major star provides them. In truth, this stuff would have been too inane even for Court TV in the years before that little-loved channel was dumbed down even further, becoming TruTV.

Has a devolved race of great apes seized control of "cable news?" The prediction was made in 1968. Eight years later, the feature film Network predicted Bill O'Reilly!

REAFFIRMATION OF DISBELIEF: We speak in praise of doubting one's own!


Interlude—With outrageous suggestions to follow:
We humans! Sometimes, or so it can seem, if it weren't for all the bad ideas, we'd have no ideas at all!

If if weren't for our absurd misjudgments—well, you can see where this line of thought goes.

In fairness, ideas and judgments are different from factual claims, which can be flatly false. In the end, ideas and judgments are matters of opinion.

They can't, in the same way, be "wrong."

Ideas and judgments can't be "wrong"—but they can come amazingly close! We think some amazingly bad ideas have been going around—and they've come from players on our own infallible liberal team.

To wit:

In assessing Donald J. Trump, should we focus on the moral dimension of his alleged sexual conduct, as Sam Stein seemed to suggest? More precisely, on "the moral element" of his alleged sexual conduct from 2006?

We think that's a stunningly bad idea, for reasons which aren't worth discussing. They aren't worth discussing for a reason which has become quite clear:

Alas! We modern humans will always find a way to return to this bad idea. We'll always want to discuss the alleged sexual conduct, even from twelve years in the past, while deep-sixing everything else.

At one time, despite something Sam Stein said, this simply wasn't allowed. Journalists didn't discuss President Kennedy's sexual conduct. It was against the rules at the time.

In part for that reason, the "journalists" who chased President Clinton all over town simply adored their Dear Jack.

Kennedy's sexual conduct was truly appalling, but it has never been fully discussed. For that reason, the great apes who led the chase after Clinton never stopped loving their Jack.

They then transferred their loathing to Candidate Gore. By the current rules of the insider game, that conduct can't be discussed! So it goes on The Planet of the Chance Mutations!

Stein seems to want to focus on "the moral element" of Donald J. Trump's alleged past sexual conduct. In fairness to Stein, Trump is alleged to have had sex, on one occasion, with the disordered, ridiculous Stephanie Clifford—and not even for pay, which her fellow adult film stars demand!

Granted, this shows terrible judgment and a gruesome lack of aesthetics. But once we head down this peeping Tom road, it's unlikely that we'll ever find our way back. Nor will we ever get clear on the actual facts, as recent political history suggests:

In our recent political history, two alleged former lovers have interfered in White House campaigns—Gennifer Flowers and Stephanie Clifford. We would assume that Flowers was making her story up, while Clifford was telling the truth.

That said, apes like us just like the fun of rooting through underwear drawers! It's stunning to think that the New York Times began a front-page report in October 2016 in this remarkable manner:
TWOHEY (10/3/18): Hillary Clinton was campaigning for her husband in January 1992 when she learned of the race’s newest flare-up: Gennifer Flowers had just released tapes of phone calls with Bill Clinton to back up her claim they had had an affair.

Other candidates had been driven out of races by accusations of infidelity. But now, at a cold, dark airfield in South Dakota, Mrs. Clinton was questioning campaign aides by phone and vowing to fight back on behalf of her husband.

“Who’s tracking down all the research on Gennifer?” she asked, according to a journalist traveling with her at the time.
Five weeks before Donald J. Trump got elected, our most unintelligent national newspaper chose to begin a front-page report like that. It was the start of an amazingly selective, 2800-word report which never attempted to come to terms with the reasons why a sensible person might well doubt the dramatic claims which earned Flowers at least $500,000 over a couple of glorious years.

Did Gennifer Flowers have an affair with Bill Clinton? You'd think so from that opening sentence, and from all that followed.

In fact, Glowers claimed she had a torrid, twelve-year love affair with the fellow she called "my Bill." We would assume she was making her story up.

The reasons for doubting Flowers surfaced quickly, and turned out to be voluminous. But newspapers like the New York Times never came to terms with such matters, which we've detailed a million times. Not unlike a band of great apes who have developed the capacity for gossip, the Times reveled in the story for almost 25 years.

In the end, their relentless gong-shows sent Donald J. Trump to the White House.

This is the world in which we're choosing to live when we hail the fiery liberals who want to focus on the "moral element" of Donald J. Trump's twelve-year-old alleged sexual conduct. This is the world in which we live when silly pseudo-progressives are able to exercise such poor judgment that they can find ways to regard Clifford as a "hero"—as a "feminist hero" at that!

Long ago and far away, we didn't really understand the ape part of this story. After twenty years on our sprawling campus, we've come to see that nothing will ever displace the bad judgment which lies at the heart of our national discourse as we slide toward the sea:

Simply put, the children want to stampede—and they're simply upgraded great apes. Nothing is going to change that.

For these reasons, we'll be changing the focus of our musings after summer comes to an end this Labor Day weekend. For today, we'll suggest this:

You should stop assuming that people within your own liberal tribe exercise good judgment. You should stop suspending your disbelief when they insist on telling you our own tribe's damn-fool tales.

Professor Harari has opened our eyes! Tomorrow, we'll shock you to the core with other possibilities. For today, it's very warm, so we're letting the analysts slide a bit, at least for the rest of the morning.

That front-page report in the New York Times was classic "great ape" work. It was "great ape" work from a pseudo-progressive perspective.

You should stop assuming the validity of such work. People are dead all over the world because our tribe plays it this way.

Thanks to twenty-five years of such damn-fool gossip, Donald J. Trump is in the Oval Office. Don't discuss his possible mental illness, our greatest newspaper decreed!

Tomorrow: We don't assume this is wrong

BREAKING: Goldberg becomes latest "truth-isn't-truther!"


Big pundits must all take a turn:
Sad! Here's the way Michelle Goldberg began this morning's column:
GOLDBERG (8/28/18): One of the unofficial slogans of the Trump era—besides “grab ’em by the you-know-what” and Rudy Giuliani’s recent “truth isn’t truth”—is “nothing matters” (sometimes preceded by a nihilistic “lol”).
Sad! The meaning of Giuliani's now-famous statement was perfectly clear at the time. On Sunday, The Washington Post's official fact-checker almost copped to this obvious fact:
KESSLER (8/26/18): Giuliani, who is a lawyer for President Trump, asserted at one point in this television appearance that “truth isn’t truth.” He later explained that he was referring to “the situation where two people make precisely contradictory statements, the classic ‘he said, she said’ puzzle.”

But there were three other key points he made in that interview that are worth exploring.
Giuliani "later explained," Kessler said, linking to something Giuliani said the next day. In fact, Giuliani explained his statement about ten seconds later, just as soon as Meet the Press host Chuck Todd stopped chortling and interrupting.

Giuliani's explanation was perfectly clear. It came about ten seconds later, not later on the next day. That said, it's just as we've been telling you:

In accord with Hard Pundit Law, every pundit knows that he or she must make sport with this statement. Within the business, this type of statement is known as an "instant iconic."

They spent two years pretending that Gore had said he "invented the Internet." Today, they all know they must have some fun with the funny thing Rudy said.

This morning, Goldberg became the guild's most recent "truth-isn't-truther." Anthropologically speaking, this is the way the brain of the great ape works, especially on stampede.

BREAKING: Davis tale keeps getting worse!


Our tribe hasn't been told:
How broken is our American journalism in this era of The Chase?

It's broken, badly broken. Consider the way Anderson Cooper began his program on CNN on Friday, July 27.

That morning, his network had rocked the world with an exciting BREAKING NEWS report. That evening, Cooper adopted his standard sardonic tone as he shared the bogus but exciting new tale:
COOPER (7/27/18): Good evening.

It says something about the kind of week we've seen, or month, or year—three, for that matter—that the big question tonight is, "Who are you going to believe? Someone not known for telling the truth or someone on record having made more than 3,000 false or misleading statements since becoming president?"

It says even more that this entirely deeply offensive notion also seems to be the president's entire defensive strategy tonight.

As CNN was first to report, sources tell us that Michael Cohen is prepared to tell Russia Special Counsel Robert Mueller that Candidate Trump had advance knowledge of the new infamous June 2016 meeting between his son, son-in-law, campaign chairman and Russians promising Kremlin intelligence on Hillary Clinton. In short, if Mr. Cohen is to believed, everything that the candidate and later president, his son, the president's lawyers have been saying ever since has been false.

And the defense, that's pretty rich. It boils down to this: "Don't believe him. He's a liar."

Pot, meet kettle.
This has become Cooper's style. At any rate, according to the sardonic pseudo-journalist, Cohen was saying that Candidate Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting in advance!

And not only that! CNN had been the first to report it!

By now, of course, everyone knows that this exciting report was bogus, false, inaccurate. Everyone except viewers of MSNBC, whose evening hosts have been careful not to tell viewers about this.

Back to Coop! As he continued that night, he snarked about a tweet by Donald J. Trump—a tweet which turns out to have been somewhat prescient.

Cohen had "even retained Bill and Crooked Hillary's lawyer," the fiery president had tweeted that day, referring to Lanny Davis. "Gee, I wonder if they helped him make the choice."

As it turns out, Davis seems to have been the original source for CNN's false report. Yesterday, the story got worse (and a bit more complicated), with CNN trying to explain why they said, in their original report, that Davis had "declined to comment," knowing, as they did, that he had actually been the off-the-record source.

At any rate, Cooper continued to snark as he continued his sardonic presentation that night. As he dropped L-bombs on Rudy Giuliani for issuing denials, Cooper sardonically offered this:

"Maybe it's like truthful hyperbole or something. Or maybe, like so much else these days, is yet another thing that would be funny if it weren't so serious."

Sad! In this case, it was CNN's report which turned out to be bogus, wrong, false. Indeed, as of last night, the CNN report also seems to have been perhaps dishonest.

To see the original CNN report, you can just click here. It bears the name of three major CNN stars, including Carl Bernstein.

Perhaps there's actually some explanation for the way CNN said that Davis had "declined to comment" when it seems that Davis actually was the original anonymous source. But if you want to see your nation's broken discourse in action, this is the place to look.

For New York magazine's new account of this fandango, click here. To read last night's account in Buzzfeed, click this.

We'll leave you to sort out the confusion. For today, we'll stress the good news here:

If you watch MSNBC, you don't have to fret about this. They sold you the thrilling story in real time. They haven't bothered telling you that the story has fallen apart.

This is the way the corporate stars act. They get paid millions to do this.

One example: CNN was the first to report the bombshell story. On that evening's Maddow Show, legal expert Joyce Vance said this to guest host Ari Melber:
MELBER (7/27/18): I turn now to former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance who has much experience here.

I don't think there's any doubt that Donald Trump is not taking Michael Cohen's advice and counsel anymore. How do you view the significance of this rupture and the types of leaking and backbiting that we're seeing tonight?

VANCE: This is potentially very significant, Ari. You know, prosecutors are hardwired to be cautious, so it's important to say that we haven't heard this story in Cohen'S own words yet. That will matter. It will also matter if he has any evidence, text messages or e-mails that were sent contemporarily that back him up. So far, the reporting we've heard is there is no evidence of that nature.

But this really is a bombshell. This idea that the president knew about this meeting before it happened, and signed off on it, places him squarely inside of collusion with Russia.
Vance voiced a few words of caution, then advanced to "bombshell"/"collusion." Speculation ran wild all night, with cable stars occasionally inserting the words which should probably be the corporate motto:

"If true."

We'll likely offer more detail tomorrow. Last night, Lanny's name wasn't mentioned, not once, on The One True Channel. Thanks to our very best cable news friends, our team still hasn't heard.

REAFFIRMATION OF DISBELIEF: Silly suspension of disbelief!


Part 2—"Feminist hero" returns:
We humans! When we read a favorite novel or watch a favorite TV soap, experts say that we engage in "the willing suspension of disbelief."

In all candor, we're not sure how "willing" this well-known proclivity is. But how might the impulse be defined? We'll let the leading authority on the non-rational process explain it:
The term suspension of disbelief or willing suspension of disbelief has been defined as a willingness to suspend one's critical faculties and believe something surreal; sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment. The term was coined in 1817 by the poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who suggested that if a writer could infuse a "human interest and a semblance of truth" into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative. Suspension of disbelief often applies to fictional works of the action, comedy, fantasy, and horror genres.
Does current American "news reporting" fall into the "horror genre?" We're going to leave that obvious question for another day.

Meanwhile, leave it to Coleridge! According to the leading authority, he noted that we humans are willing to "suspend judgement concerning the implausibility" of fantastic tales.

According to that leading authority, we're inclined to "suspend [our] critical faculties and believe something surreal." This seems to involve the "sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment."

This description recalls Professor Harari's account of the way our disordered species, Homo sapiens, came to gain control of the planet. Seventy thousand years ago, chance mutations gave us the ability to invent and affirm sweeping group "fictions." Or so Professor Harari says, explaining that this emerging ability allowed our somewhat murderous ancestors to cooperate in much larger groups, driving all other human populations into extinction.

Whatever! More generally, we the humans are strongly inclined, in various settings, to suspend our disbelief—to disconnect our critical/rational judgment. We may do this when we watch Days of Our Lives on our giant TVs, or when we read silly screeds from tribal leaders in our silliest newspaper, the Hamptons-based New York Times.

It can get very silly in the Times, but the novelized narratives found in the Times tend to support tribal verities. We liberals may tend to suspect our critical judgment in the face of such offerings, getting swept along in the flow.

We may do this "for the sake of enjoyment" and for the sake of tribal unity. Consider what happened on Sunday past, when the Times published a piece which might be called, "Return of the Feminist Hero."

(We say "return" because of this earlier "Feminist Hero" piece in the new Salon.)

True feminist heroes are of course very much worth admiring. The movement has a great deal to teach, as it has done in the past.

That said, the "feminist hero" presented this Sunday may be a peculiar choice for this status. In an essay for the Sunday Review, Jill Filipovic dropped this designation on—who else?—Stormy Daniels. Again!

Is there anything "feminist" or "heroic" about the aforementioned Daniels? Those would of course be matters of judgment. Such questions can never be settled.

We'll focus instead on the way this New York Times scribe told you the Stormy story. When we ardent and fiery liberals sign on to narratives like this, are we perhaps displaying "a willingness to suspend [our] critical faculties and believe something surreal?"

The Filipovic piece appeared beneath this headline: "Stormy Daniels, Feminist Hero." The essay began in a basically accurate way:
FILIPOVIC (8/26/18): Let’s take a moment for Stormy Daniels.

On Tuesday, Michael D. Cohen pleaded guilty to breaking campaign finance laws, charges stemming from payments he made to two women, one of them Ms. Daniels, with whom Donald Trump is said to have had an affair. Mr. Cohen, a former lawyer for Mr. Trump, says he made the payments at the direction of the president, in an effort to influence the 2016 election.

It’s an extraordinary admission, and an extraordinary political moment—not just because of what it means for Mr. Trump. It marks an unanticipated feminist turning point. Ms. Daniels is an adult film star and, like the president, an unapologetic self-promoter. Hers is not a female archetype that has historically garnered much respect, trust or sympathy. Yet here she is, an imperfect, entirely self-possessed woman telling her story with clarity and without shame. And here we are, actually listening to her.
So far, so mostly accurate! Let's review what's been said:

There's nothing legally wrong with being an adult film star, though it may or may not seem like a feminist act.

There's also nothing legally wrong with being "an unapologetic self-promoter," although our society is sinking beneath the weight of this widespread cultural impulse. This rarely looks "heroic," except to dopes, when it's practiced by men.

Beyond that, Daniels is plainly "telling her story," or at least some version of same, without any hint of shame. Whether she's telling her story "with clarity" may be a point of dispute—but of one thing we can be certain:

Without any question, we the nudniks are indeed, and without any doubt, "actually listening to her." If you subscribe to cable TV, you really don't have much choice!

(We'll note one factual point. Is Trump "said to have had an affair" with Daniels? According to Daniels, they had sex on one occasion. It's just as easy to type that fact as it is to embellish the tale.)

So far, so basically accurate! But as the Times narration continues, we hit out first puzzlement point:
FILIPOVIC (continuing directly): Mr. Trump’s own incompetence, inexperience and misogyny didn’t stop his ascent to the White House; neither could a woman who spent her life cultivating capability, expertise and political pedigree. The usual rules don’t seem to apply to Mr. Trump. And under the usual rules, a woman who so thoroughly breaks norms of female decorum and political propriety would be shamed into silence.

Which is why there is so much power in the fact that Ms. Daniels does not believe her job or her involvement with Mr. Trump or the payoff is her shame to carry. She wants him held accountable, and the justice system is actually stepping in. She is refusing to slink away, despite being paid to do exactly that in a pattern we’ve seen too many times from influential men seeking to maintain their dominance and avoid responsibility.
In Filipovic's fourth paragraph, we're told that Daniels refuses to be "shamed into silence" by "norms of female decorum." As a general matter, that sounds like a good way to go.

But by paragraph 5, our narrative is starting to take on a possibly puzzling aspect. We're told that Daniels wants Trump to be "held accountable" for something' The problem:

We aren't quite told what it is he should be held accountable for.

We're also told that Daniels doesn't want Trump to "maintain [his] dominance and avoid responsibility." Again, we aren't exactly told what he'd be avoiding responsibility for. We aren't told how he would be maintaining dominance by having paid Daniels the big sack of cash she'd been pursuing for years.

At this point, our story is taking on a familiar old sound, and especially so if we suspend our critical judgment. In the next paragraph, our story is perhaps a bit imprecise again. Here's what the Sunday Times offered:
FILIPOVIC (continuing directly): Ms. Daniels is a sex worker, making her the kind of “bad woman,” scorned for her work, who is not often believed when she indicts a powerful man.
Is Daniels a "sex worker?" The term strikes us as a bit imprecise in this particular context. But again, we're told that Daniels wants to "indict a powerful man," namely Donald J. Trump.

Once again, we aren't quite told what it is she wants to indict Trump for. What is it that the fellow has done? This basic question keeps getting glossed as our story sweeps us along—as we're invited to suspend our disbelief and our critical judgment.

In our view, Donald J. Trump is a deeply disordered person. That said, in this rather familiar story, what exactly is he being "indicted" for? For what is he being "held accountable?" We ask this because, according to Daniels, she had sex with Trump exactly once, in July 2006, and she has said, on network TV, that this admittedly grisly act was "entirely consensual."

At this, their first of their two meetings, Donald J. Trump had floated the idea that Daniels might appear on The Celebrity Apprentice. After that, according to Daniels, she and Trump had sex.

One year later, they met again, according to Daniels. According to Daniels, Trump said, unconvincingly, that he was still working on that TV deal. According to Daniels, they didn't have sex on that second occasion, and they never met again.

Four years later, Daniels began seeking money for the chance to "tell her story" about the time when she had sex with the famous unattractive fellow whose wife had just given birth. (Anderson Cooper, interviewing Daniels on 60 Minutes: "In May 2011, Daniels agreed to tell her story to a sister publication of In Touch magazine for fifteen thousand dollars.")

In 2016, with Trump even more famous, she began trying to sell her pointless but slimy story again.

These are a few of the basic outlines of the story as told by Daniels. (Trump denies that they ever had sex.) For ourselves, we're unclear which part of this basic story is either "heroic" or "feminist." But we think the Times should have been much more clear on the question of what Trump is supposedly being indicted for.

We also don't know why anyone is inclined to listen to a scumbag like this. We're forced to listen to Donald J. Trump because, helped along by people like Cooper, he managed to get himself elected president.

For that reason, we're forced to listen to the scumbag Trump, and to his frequently ludicrous TV lawyer. But why exactly are we listening to the scumbag Daniels, and to her patently ridiculous TV lawyer? We're seven grafs into the New York Times narrative and we have no real idea.

Can we tell you something about those seven paragraphs? They seem to be telling a very familiar, indeed iconic, story—the story of the innocent young woman defiled. Unfortunately, this is a very important cultural and historical story, one which has been told in famous novels, one which is being acted out all over the world today.

The Times almost seems to be selling that story as it glosses Daniels' tale! If we suspend all disbelief and all critical judgment, we may even get swept along in the claim of feminist heroism derived from this bowdlerized tale.

Isn't the real story this?

Daniels wanted to get on TV, so she BLEEPed an unattractive old man whose wife had just given birth to the couple's first child. When the old goat wouldn't give her the TV spot, she began trying to sell her utterly pointless story, for cash.

However gruesome, her one sex act was "entirely consensual," she told Anderson Cooper. She also said this to Cooper on that ridiculous night:
COOPER (3/25/18): A lot of people are using you for a lot of different agendas.

DANIELS: They're trying to. Like, oh, you know, "Stormy Daniels comes out #MeToo."

This is not a MeToo. I was not a victim. I've never said I was a victim. I think trying to use me to, to further someone else's agenda does horrible damage to people who are true victims.
Five months later, our silliest newspaper comes along with our feminist hero. In reality, she's the one who BLEEPed the old goat in hopes of getting on TV, then tried to humiliate his family by "telling her story" for cash.

Along the way, Daniels has come up with exciting stories about being threatened and otherwise misused. Her lawyer seems to have abandoned the story of the thug on the parking lot, though the story may return and it could even be true, since everything imaginably is.

That said, Daniels is, at least on her face, a scumbag not unlike Trump. Her TV lawyer is visibly demonic, perhaps even more so than Trump's.

Despite these matters, it's easy to get swept along in the willing suspension of disbelief. At times like these, we humans are inclined to want to believe—and our own tribe is full of people who are willing to hand us our latest group fictions.

Our view? It seems to us that we all have a citizen's duty not to suspend our rational judgment. That said, it's easy to buy into a tale, as Coleridge so thoughtfully said, and the world is full of ridiculous people who have perhaps been swept along or who are willing to play you.

Tomorrow: Thinking the unthinkable, Part 1 and Part 2

BREAKING: One other claim by Lanny Davis!


Not that it has to be true:
For what it's worth, Lanny Davis made another striking claim on cable TV last week. The chances are good that you haven't seen our big tribal stars report it.

Davis spoke with Chuck Todd on MTP Daily:
TODD (8/22/18): Can you say definitively whether you know if Michael Cohen ever was in Prague in 2016?

DAVIS: Never, never in Prague. Did I make that—Never, never—

TODD: Never in Prague.

DAVIS: Ever. Ever! And the reason, just to let your viewers know what we're talking about, is that the dossier, so-called, mentions his name 14 times, one of which is a meeting with Russians in Prague.

TODD: Yes.

DAVIS: Fourteen times false. It was posted as am extensive letter rebutting, but about Prague which is an illusion that's been repeated infinitely, the answer's no, never.
None of that means that Davis' statement is true; it could be false, or misleading. We're posting this because we'll guess our major corporate stars may not rush to tell us that Davis emphatically said this, even now, with Cohen allegedly telling the whole truth.

For ourselves, we're suspending our judgment until Mueller or someone delivers the actual goods. We'd call that a citizen's duty, though tribal belief is much more apelike and a lot more fun.

BREAKING: The Washington Post walks Lanny back!


His very strange recent performances:
In a news report in this morning's Washington Post, Hamburger and Helderman have walked back Lanny Davis' very strange performances representing Michael Cohen.

Actually, no! Cohen isn't claiming that Donald J. Trump had advance knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting, at least not according to the new and improved Lanny Davis. Also, there's this:
HAMBURGER AND HELDERMAN (8/27/18): In his interview with The Post, Davis also hedged on an idea he widely promoted after Cohen’s guilty plea: that the longtime Trump loyalist had information that Trump knew of the Russian hacking of Democratic emails ahead of time.

Davis floated that idea in numerous broadcast interviews in recent days, repeatedly touting his client’s potential value to Mueller.
As Davis has walked back his various claims, Donald J. Trump has struck. The Post reports the blowback from the skillful commander in chief:
HAMBURGER AND HELDERMAN: Trump and his allies seized on the erosion of those claims.

“Michael Cohen’s attorney clarified the record, saying his client does not know if President Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting (out of which came nothing!),” Trump tweeted Saturday. “The answer is that I did NOT know about the meeting. Just another phony story by the Fake News Media!”
Oof! You may not hear a lot about this on MSNBC this evening. But this is the sort of thing which tells Trump supporters that some sort of Deep State witch hunt is underway—and that, as a famous statesman recently told them, the things they see and hear in the press aren't what's actually happening.

Davis' efforts on behalf of Cohen last week were just flat-out weird. Meanwhile, Chris Cuomo told an anecdote about Cohen which may help illustrate the general credibility of Davis' client, who Davis may or may not have spoken to at some point in his life.

Cuomo was speaking with Kellyanne Conway. It seemed to us that this anecdote cut largely in Kellyanne's favor:
CUOMO (8/23/18): Michael Cohen had a conversation with me. He asked me—excuse me. He asked me not to record it. I said I won't.

He said, "Just to be careful, let me have your phone," I said here. He then said, "We'll take our phones. I'll put them away."

He did. He recorded me on a secondary device.

CONWAY: How do you feel about that?

CUOMO: I think that that was dishonest and it was a bad thing to do.

CONWAY: Dishonest—

CUOMO: And I'll tell you what? You know what we talked about in the conversation? I'm not going to tell you. You know why? Because it was off-the-record and I respect that, even though he did me wrong. That's called integrity.
Cuomo angrily praised his own integrity. As he did, it wasn't clear to us that he understood the way his story played from Conway's perspective.

From Conway's perspective, this anecdote means that Cohen is a person whose word can't be trusted—even now, now that he has started making accusations against his former boss. Cuomo was in such a lather by this point, it wasn't clear to us that he understood the drift of the story he told.

Our world—rather, our upper-end society—is full of ridiculous figures. In our view, Trump is the most ridiculous figure of all—and, of course, the most dangerous.

That said, many other ridiculous figures are playing ball on our own liberal team. It's important to keep clear on this point—but only if you want to execute your basic citizen's duty.

One final point:

We were amazed by Trump's numbers in two recent NBC/Wall Street Journal polls.

In the days before the Manafort verdict and the Cohen plea, Trump was only barely underwater, with 46 percent favorable, 51 percent not.

That was only one poll, of course. The numbers went to 44-52 after the Manafort verdicts and the Cohen plea.

That was also only one poll. But those strike us as amazingly decent numbers for Trump. Our own prejudice would be to suggest that our liberal team's tribal strategy—the strategy of the endless, nonstop and ubiquitous Chase—may not be working especially well.

Our team talks about nothing except The Chase. It's abundantly clear that there's nothing else our big stars care about.

Our stars can barely even bring themselves to mention the children Trump has stolen from their parents. We seem to lack any values at all, except those of The Chase.

We look like we're conducting a hunt! But then, our upper-end society is full of ridiculous figures, many of whom, like it or not, are playing on our team.

Many of us choose to gulp every bowl of porridge we're fed by our major stars. We're so old that we can remember when liberals were wise enough to mistrust authority figures.

Mistrust but try to verify! Remember when we would do that?

REAFFIRMATION OF DISBELIEF: Lynch mobs, circus crowds compared!


Part 1—Your own favored side can be wrong:
As summer ends, we're confronted with a teeming cast of potential apes and/or angels.

Plus, our own new era begins next week! As best we can tell, we won't have a new web site up and running by that time. But it will be time for us to move on, at least in certain ways.

This means that we need to review that teeming cast this week. Let's start with the New York Times' Bret Stephens—and, dear God, with Sam Stein, politics editor at The Daily Beast and an MSNBC contributor.

Stephens started his most recent column with the sad but mandated horseplay concerning "truth isn't truth." To us, that suggests that he's joined a type of mob. Far worse, as he continued, he offered an unwise suggestion:
STEPHENS (8/25/18): Over the years I’ve periodically been reminded of the many ways in which Bill Clinton’s presidency debased our civic culture. This week the reminders have been especially pointed.

First we had the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani on NBC on Sunday, explaining to Chuck Todd that “truth isn’t truth”—an invitation, perhaps, to parse the meaning of “isn’t” just as Clinton once parsed the meaning of the word “is.”

Next came the publication of a scathing 1998 memo from Brett Kavanaugh, written when the Supreme Court nominee was a young lawyer working for the independent counsel Ken Starr.

“The president has disgraced his Office, the legal system, and the American people by having sex with a 22-year-old intern and turning her life into a shambles,” Kavanaugh wrote, calling it “callous and disgusting behavior that has somehow gotten lost in the shuffle.”
Good grief! In context, Stephens seems to be praising Kavanaugh for the recommendation he made in 1998—for the suggestion that "Judge Starr," as was piously called, should publicly examine every garment in the Clinton/Lewinsky underwear drawer.

Credit where due! Kavanaugh knew, even then, that Bill Clinton never had an affair with the famous "21-year-old intern" of mainstream press corps novelization. In fact, Monica Lewinsky was 22 to 24 years of age during her intermittent relationship with Bill Clinton—the relationship which Kavanugh hoped to see frisked in detail.

Just for the record, this famous intern was an intern for exactly ten days of the 16-month period which involved (ten) sexual interactions with Clinton. And she had already accepted a full-time federal job when the first interaction occurred.

In short, Clinton never had sex with the "21-year-old intern" of mainstream press corps fame—but so what? Given the way the hominid brain works on stampede, our journalists novelized Lewinsky as a "21-year-old intern" as they wrote—and wrote, and wrote and wrote and wrote—about the exciting affair.

Kavanaugh wanted all ten of their sexual acts explored in thrilling detail. Stephens seems to think this was good sound advice. We see this later in his column:
STEPHENS: Thanks to the #MeToo movement, there’s been a long-delayed reconsideration among liberals about their past defense of (or relative indifference to) Clinton’s sexual predations. Monica Lewinsky and Juanita Broaddrick, once targets of left-wing snickering and contempt, have at last received a measure of respect as victims and survivors.

But the reconsideration isn’t complete. On Wednesday, I noted that Republicans who demanded Clinton’s impeachment 20 years ago—because he had corrupted the moral fiber of the country and the legal fabric of the state—are hypocritical in refusing to apply the same logic to Trump.

By the same token, liberals now calling for Trump’s impeachment ought to rethink the excuses so many of them made for Clinton 20 years ago. That it was “just sex.” Or that “lying about sex” doesn’t rise to the level of an impeachable offense (even if it’s lying about sex under oath). Or that “character doesn’t matter” so long as the administration produces peace and prosperity. Or that the motivating animus of the president’s critics is reason enough to dismiss the criticism.

These excuses were toxic not because they had no merit, but because they sidestepped the core of the issue: that the survival and ennoblement of democracy depend on holding people in high office to higher, not lower, standards.
According to Stephens, we have to hold our presidents to higher (sexual) standards. To see if they're measuring up, we need to examine their sexual acts in full, rich detail.

This strikes us as catastrophically bad advice. To us, this almost starts to seem like the brain of the great ape on stampede.

In his missive to Judge Starr, Kavanaugh railed against the way Clinton had "turned the life" of the federal employee in question "into a shambles.” It didn't seem to occur to Kavanaugh that it might be his own Dimmesdalian peeping Tom instincts which were having that effect.

Was Lewinsky's life turned into a shambles by Clinton, or by a band of peeping Toms? Presumably, you can argue it flat or you can argue it round.

That said, the peeping Toms ran in a pack during the year of impeachment. They then turned on a dime after Clinton's Senate trial, transferring their fury to Candidate Gore in March 1999.

This widespread act by the mainstream press eventually led to death all over the world. That said, the conduct which sent George W. Bush to the White House has never been discussed to this very day. Great apes maintain strict codes of silence, especially those with press passes.

Kavanaugh wanted all ten sexual acts to be fleshed out in detail. On his way to a subsequent giant sex scandal at Baylor, Judge Starr took this advice.

Because we great apes reason this way, three full years of this nation's time were devoted to Bill Clinton's ten sex acts. It started in January 1998 and extended through November 2000.

Nothing else could be discussed. This sent George W. Bush to the White House. From there, he went to Iraq.

Bret Stephens seems to think that this was a good idea. Depressingly, Sam Stein seems to agree.

Stein is one of the (several) sensible members of Morning Joe's gang of like-minded pundits. Rather plainly, he isn't crazy. He isn't mean or stupid.

Like Stephens, Stein seems like a thoroughly decent person. That said, we humans have a long history of signing on to gruesome ideas—and this is especially true when we start running in packs.

We ran in a pack in The Ox-Bow Incident, the 1943 feature film which lost the Oscar for Best Picture to Casablanca's sunnier picture of human functioning. We ran in a pack in Chapter 22 of sacred Twain's Huckleberry Finn, even as other citizens of the town were suspending their disbelief at a circus performance.

We're strongly inclined to run in packs. We're strongly inclined to suspend our disbelief, or perhaps our critical judgment, when we do so.

We're strongly inclined to reason poorly when we start running in packs. But whatever the reason, Stein seemed to adopt Stephens' view on last Thursday's Morning Joe. We need to focus more on the sex, this sensible liberal said:
STEIN (8/23/18): There's so much to unpack...

But then, I keep coming pack to this one thing that's sort of nagging me, that we have basically just taken it as a given, and not at all an extraordinary thing, that [Trump] had an affair on his wife, with a 5-month-old kid, and paid hush money to cover it up.

I mean this, in normal presidential times, would have been an extraordinary scandal, and certanly for someone with the devoted support of the evangelical community. But at this juncture, we're just sort of like "OK! He did that! And let's talk about the campaign finance crime element of it."

It just seems crazy that we're losing the moral element of it. Not that I'm a moral warrior here, but he does have a huge evangelical following that under any other administration would have gone to the mat over this and would have been apoplectic.

MIKA: Yeah. So Eddie, chime in...
Not that Stein's "a moral warrior" here! To watch this statement, click here, skip to the 2:15 mark.

Mika, who was stricken this day, asked Eddie Glaude to "chime in." "Chiming in" is what we great apes do when we run in a mob.

(Mika had cued Stein by referring to Trump's "lascivious" conduct. For the record, the lascivious conduct in question is alleged to have happened in 2006!)

In this instance, Stein chimed in with his acceptance of an emerging line of thought. According to this line of thought, we need to focus on the sexual conduct of political figures. We mustn't "lose the moral element of it," even if we have to go back a full ten years in search of lascivious conduct to which we cab object.

If you watch the tape of Stein's remarks, you'll see him expressing special feeling about the way Donald J. Trump (presumably) mistreated his wife. He's expresses special feeling about that five-month-old son.

Stein doesn't mention the people who died, all over the world, the last time we staged a sex stampede of this type. He doesn't mention what occurs when we turn our discourse over to "the moral element of it."

What happens, of course, is this:

What happens when we let the Kavanaughs and the Judge Starrs rummage through every item found in the underwear drawer? Duh! Over the course of the next several years, nothing else will be discussed.

We'll talk about those ten sex acts and we'll talk about nothing else! Meanwhile, due to the private nature of the subject, we'll rarely be able to figure out what may have actually happened, unless we put a Dimmesdale like Judge Starr in charge.

Make no mistake! Powerful interests jump for joy when we head down this road. The various ways they loot the public will go unexplored as the Kavanaughs, the Starrs and the Stephenses—and now, even the Steins—tell us that "the moral element" is the ultimate thing.

We won't discuss the looting of our health care system; we have to discuss sex acts. We won't discuss the way Trump changed the tax code. We have to listen to Stormy Daniels "telling her story" concerning one alleged sex act from 2006.

We can't discuss our urban schools—who gives a fig about them? We're going to talk about Clinton's (ten) sex acts, and we're going to talk about the moral element of who Trump allegedly f*cked back in 2006!

This is what Stein, a progressive, thinks we ought to discuss! When you run with Mika and Joe long enough, this is where you may end up.

You'll note the way Stein, a progressive, shaped his heartfelt narrative. He took two shots at The Others, the evangelicals, for the current state of affairs. Stephens, of course, had cast liberals in the same role.

Stein also made this remarkable statement: "I mean this, in normal presidential times, would have been an extraordinary scandal." Watching Stein say that, we thought of noble Nestor, the seasoned charioteer, speaking to the headstrong Diomedes on the plains outside Troy:
NESTOR: Few can match your power in battle, Diomedes,
and in council you excel all men your age
But you don't press on and reach a useful end.
How young you are—why, you could be my son,
my youngest-born at that...
But it's my turn now, Diomedes.
I think I can claim to have some years on you.
So I must speak up and drive the matter home.
How young is Stein? Extremely young! He's just fourteen years out of college! (Dartmouth, class of 2004.) That's about as young as a man can be on cable. (They prefer their women younger.)

Because we have some years on Stein, we were struck by some of his comments. "In normal presidential times," would the claim that Trump had sex with Clifford on one occasion "have been an extraordinary scandal?"

Please! In Kennedy times, and in subsequent years, no such news would have been discussed at all. It was only in the times of Gary Hart that our journalists began to hide in the bushes hoping to spot sex acts.

People are dead all over the world because Matthews and Williams and Lawrence and them behaved this way in the case of Bill Clinton. People are dead all over the world, but Stein, like Stephens and Kavanaugh, wants to go there again.

For today, our key point:

Once we let them start to talk about this, they'll talk about nothing else! Even now, power elites are shouting with joy as they see this road being taken.

In our view, Kavanaugh gave Judge Starr some bad advice in that earlier era. In our view, Stephens—and now, even the liberal Sam Stein—are heading down that same road.

As the summer comes to an end, a remarkable cast of characters are stampeding across the plain. We're going to sort them out as best we can in this last summery week.

Are we really "rational animals?" Or are we Professor Harari's great apes? As the week proceeds, we'll examine that seminal question to the extent that we can.

We'll offer one key bit of advice—stop suspending your disbelief! Stop assuming that your team, and your tribe, surely have it right.

All week, we'll imagine the possibility that our team leaders have certain things wrong. In truth, when we great apes begin to stampede, almost no one—no one at all—is likely to get much right.

Tomorrow: Good God! "Feminist icon!"

BREAKING: Our press corps' brain on stampede, part 2!


Bret Stephens believes in the truth:
Almost surely, CNN's Chris Cillizza isn't the world's dumbest person.

That said, he'll do in a pinch! Or so we thought when we clicked a link from the New York Times' Bret Stephens—a link which took us to this recent post by Cillizza.

Stephens starts his new column as they'll all be doing now—with a throw-away reference to "truth isn't truth." This is very much the way their brains look on stampede.

In fact, it was perfectly obvious what Rudy Giuliani was saying when he made his "truth isn't truth" remark on Meet the Press. He was making the world's most obvious statement, as the full transcript of the exchange makes perfectly clear:

He was saying a person can make a true statement which won't be accepted as truth. He was saying a person can be charged with lying even though he's telling the truth.

It's perfectly obvious that this is true, and that this is what Giuliani was saying. But when our "journalists" start a stampede, they like their claims against their target to be comically obvious.

They'll rarely read a full chunk of transcript if a comical claim can be derived from the first few words which were said. It's how their brains work on stampede. They've behaved this way many times in the past, and they'll do so again.

People are dead all over the world because they behave this way. But thanks to a basic fact of life, people like Stephens will continue to function this way.

That basic fact of life is this: we actually aren't "the rational animal," as Aristotle is said to have said. As Professor Harari has instead suggested, we're "the animal inclined to gossip and to adopt group fictions." We're the animal inclined to stampede, as our journalists are currently doing.

"Witch hunts" can be directed at guilty parties; that doesn't mean they weren't witch hunts. Truth to tell, there's a bit of a hunt going on right now, a bit of a press corps stampede.

Regarding Cillizza: We'd planned to discuss one part of the Cillizza piece to which Stephens links. We'd planned to connect it to something Brian said last night.

Our intentions were the best. Sorry. Too depressing.

Regarding Lanny Davis: Has Lanny Davis ever met his client, Michael Cohen? That's the question with which we were left after watching Davis speak with Anderson Cooper this past Wednesday night.

Has Lanny Davis ever met Mike? To see what your best guess might be, you can peruse the transcript here.

BREAKING: This is your press corps' brain on stampede!


When Kellyanne met Chris:
We just had the great misfortune of watching Chris Cuomo's attempt to interview Kellyanne Conway on CNN last night.

The interview started at 9:02 Eastern. It ran, without interruption, until 9:33.

Kellyanne is always terrible. Arguably, Cuomo was worse.

By the end of the session, the two interlocutors were each speaking, almost completely without interruption, over and on top of each other. Cuomo, whose skin was inordinately thin this night, completely failed to establish control over the conduct of the utterly pointless session.

For CNN's attempt to transcribe this mess, you can just click here. Due to the constant double-talking, the transcript looks like a long, thin, super-experimental effort by e. e. cummings.

Cuomo had only one focus throughout the embarrassing session. He wanted Conway to admit that Donald J. Trump has been "lying" when he says he didn't know about the payments to Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford "until later."

Cuomo kept insisting that Trump has been lying about this. He seemed to think it sufficed to say that this is what the Washington Post has said.

Conway didn't agree. She insisted that Trump hasn't been lying, or even misstating, about these matters. And we're only talking about two matters here: 1) the payment to McDougal, and 2) the payment to Clifford.

You'd almost think that, in 31 minutes, the pair of interlocutors could have hashed these two matters out. But Cuomo, in his fury and in the vast incompetence which resulted, never asked Conway to explain her claim that Trump didn't know about the payment to McDougal until later.

With respect to the payment to Clifford, Cuomo seemed to be relying on Glenn Kessler's analysis in yesterday morning's Post. But Kessler seems to be completely confused about the basic chronology there.

What would Conway's position have been had she been forced to explain herself by a competent journalist? We'll guess she would have said this:

The payment to McDougal
Please note. Neither Cohen nor Trump made the actual payment to McDougal. The actual payment to McDougal was made by AMI, parent company to the National Enquirer, apparently in early August 2016. AMI was repaid for the payment by Cohen, apparently in September 2016 (or later). We know of no evidence showing that Trump knew about AMI's payment at the time it was made.

(This doesn't strike us as a hugely significant point. But it's the point Cuomo thundered about all through the embarrassing session.)

The payment to Clifford
Regarding the payment to Clifford, Conway seemed much clearer on the basic chronology than Cuomo did. As far as we know, there is no evidence showing that Trump knew about this payment at the time it was made. Kessler seems to be completely confused about the basic chronology—but then, so does the bulk of the mainstream press.

For ourselves, we don't know what Donald Trump knew at any particular point in time. As long as journalists behave the way Cuomo did last night, there's little chance anyone will ever find out, absent legal proceedings.

Kellyanne is always terrible; Cuomo's absurd performance last night may have been even worse. Kessler has completely lost the thread of the chronology regarding the payment to Clifford.

This is your press corps' brain on stampede. It's a pitiful sight.

Tomorrow: Has Lanny ever spoken to Michael at all? Excerpts from the transcript of Anderson Cooper's session with Lanny Davis

LOS ANGELES STORY: Scolded for too many accurate statements!


Part 4—When rational animals attack:
Anthropologically speaking, it may seem like an unusual bit of behavior. In fairness, experts say the behavior in question is sometimes observed in the wild.

We refer to behavior in which Hominid A scolds Hominid B for making a statement on which the two hominids agree. Rather, for making the accurate statement too often, even though no one else will.

Yesterday, Hominid A attacked Hominid B in precisely this fashion. According to Hominid A, Hominid B has said it too often:
There's no way to erase our achievement gaps through some sort of "desegregation."
Let's be clear. Hominid A agrees with this rather obvious statement. Hominid A understands that there's no way to achieve this goal, or anything like it, though this proposed means.

Hominid A understands that this is true. It just annoys him when Hominid B keeps making this accurate statement!

Speaking as a source familiar with the thinking of Hominid B, we'll render one minor complaint. Hominid A failed to explain the reason why Hominid B keeps making this accurate statement!

In the current case, Hominid B raised this point because the New York Times, a well-known newspaper, keeps publishing news reports and opinion pieces which assert or suggest that "integration" or "desegregation" actually can solve our problems. In the course of this pursuit, Hominid B keeps asking a question which Hominid A tends to avoid:

What does it say about us when our tribal newspapers and magazines keep proposing this non-solution solution? Beyond that, what does it say about the alleged "rationality" of our alleged "human race?"

Why in the world does the New York Times keep proposing this non-solution? In line with an ancient dictum. Hominid A tends to avoid this part of the problem. That ancient dictum is this:
What occurs in the upper-end press corps stays in the upper-end press corps.
As a general matter, this dictum regulates a widespread code of silence. It very much helps explain how Donald J. Trump, our commander in chief, reached the Oval Office.

What occurs in the press corps stays in the press corps? To see this powerful dictum in action, consider today's insightful column by the New York Times' Paul Krugman.

Krugman's column concerns the long-running strategy known as "starve the beast." On its merits, the column should be quite important.

That said, you won't see the column, or the topic it discusses, discussed on your favorite "cable news" programs. On those programs, the children will be speculating about the latest emanations from the penumbra which constitutes The Chase.

(The other day, we mentioned the fact that corporate cable star John Heilemann is even beginning to dress like Shecky Greene. On today's Morning Joe, he opened with a deathless quip about the horror of subpoenas being delivered to peckers. As we've tried to tell you, this is who and what, and all, they are. We hope to be able to bring you the exact wording of this "Sheck attack" later.)

Krugman's column won't be discussed elsewhere in the press corps. On cable news, Krugman's topic is seen as boring and hard. The children prefer to gambol and play about entertaining fare.

That said, one part of Krugman's important column helps illustrate that ancient dictum. We refer, as we've done so many times, to the part of the column where Krugman, quite correctly, makes these observations:
KRUGMAN (8/24/18): Fifteen years ago I wrote a long piece titled “The Tax-Cut Con,” describing what was even then a time-honored scam; it reads almost word for word as a description of Republican strategy in 2017-18. Yet I keep reading news analyses expressing puzzlement that men who were strident deficit hawks in the Obama years so cheerfully signed on to a budget-busting tax cut under Trump. To say the obvious: These men were never deficit hawks; it was always a pose.

And the gullibility both of the news media and self-proclaimed centrists remains a remarkable story. Remember, Ryan, who was utterly orthodox in his determination to cut taxes on the rich while savaging programs for the poor and the middle class, even received an award for fiscal responsibility.
Fifteen years after he explained "starve the beast," Krugman "keeps reading news analyses expressing puzzlement" about the basic structure of the scam. He voices amazement about what he describes as "the gullibility of the news media"—though it may not be gullibility at all, it may be something else.

Having said that, how odd! Krugman links to his own 15-year-old piece, but he links to none of the gullible journalists concerning whom he complains. He names no name of any journalist. The reader to left to puzzle about who these gullible journalists are.

We've offered this complaint about Krugman many times by now. Why do we keep making this point? To answer that question, let's recall a previous time when Hominid A scolded us for repeating a point with which he himself agreed.

On that occasion, Hominid A scolded up for saying, more than once, that the mainstream press corps waged a war against Candidate Gore in the 2000 election. He seemed to agree that our observation was valid, but he'd heard us say it too many times, and it seemed to have made its way under his skin.

Why were we repeating our point? Skillfully, we explained. We had continued making this point because we couldn't get anyone else to make it! That said, it's a major part of Hard Pundit Law:

Members of the establishment press don't talk about the establishment press corps! If they do criticize the mainstream press, no actual names shall be named!

In that instance, you may know what happened. All the children kept their traps shut about the long-running press corps war directed at Clinton, Clinton and Gore. And sure enough:

When Candidate Clinton announced in 2014, this long-running mainstream war started up all over again. The children all averted their gaze, and Trump ended up in the White House!

In the current instance, why do we keep repeating our (accurate) claim about "desegregation?" Because our most foppish newspaper, the New York Times, keeps publishing news reports and opinion columns which seem to promote "desegregation" as the great solution!

We'd say it's obvious why this occurs. The poobahs of this famous newspaper neither know nor care about the kids who attend our urban schools. Meanwhile, their readers love the glorious feeling which comes with full-throated pseudo-affirmation of glorious "integration."

It makes us liberals feel smart and good. It's also inane behavior.

Hominid A didn't talk about that when he scolded us for being correct too often. The bullshit in question occurs within the establishment press, and that's where the bullshit will stay!

As he closed his piece, Hominid A asked a good question. Since it's obvious that "desegregation" won't be the answer, what will the answer be?

That question is hard to answer. In our view, reactions in Hominid A's comments illustrate how rarely we liberals ever think or talk about this.

In some ways, the answer lies within the home. In some ways, the answer lies within the community.

In some ways, the answer lies within the schools, and also within the preschools. In some ways, the answer lies within various public agencies.

But we'd start by saying this:

There will never be an answer until a serious discussion occurs. That said, it's obvious that we the liberals quit on this topic a long time ago, and that we don't have the slightest intention of returning to it, except to give voice to silly bromides designed to make us feel good.

The Times seems to know what readers want. With respect to our Los Angeles story, what do American kids really need?

That won't be discussed in the New York Times. Also, don't ask too often!

Basic question for the day: As we laugh and enjoy The Chase, how dangerous might Donald Trump be?

BREAKING: Aristotle's apes in action!


Rational animals ride:
In the past two days, Aristotle's hominids have been riding—at times, their conduct has almost resembled night-riding—all over the countryside.

That said, we just watched Anderson Cooper's interview with Lanny Davis from CNN last night. We're not sure we've ever seen a more embarrassing TV performance than the one Davis offered.

For now, we'll stress just one point. Davis confirmed that Michael Cohen is not claiming that Donald J. Trump had prior knowledge of the now-famous Trump Tower meeting with the Russkie lawyer.

Repeat: Is not claiming that Donald J. Trump had prior knowledge.

The contrary claim took the apes by storm not too long ago. A lot of the tribal excitement emanated from CNN. We'll recommend this embarrassing report by Mediaite, with a link to Axios.

Mainly, though, Davis' presentation as he spoke with Cooper went well beyond The Planet of the Awful and the Embarrassing. You can read the transcript here. We were glad that Aristotle wasn't present, here on earth, to see this pitiful effort by this latest ridiculous lawyer.

As of two days ago, we've all been flown to the planet of Aristotle's apes. We'll encounter few rational animals there. You can expect to be trapped on that planet for a good long time now.

LOS ANGELES STORY: Meets a Manhattan mystery!


Part 3—A mystery that's easily solved:
It's a bit like Rodney Dangerfield's boxing match—the famous fight at which the hockey game broke out.

In this case, a Los Angeles story was underway—and, to borrow from Woody Allen, a Manhattan mystery broke out!

The Los Angeles story of which we speak involves gigantic "achievement gaps." As you may recall, those achievement gaps look like this:
Average scores, Los Angeles Unified School District
Grade 8 math, 2017 Naep

White students: 298.28
Black students: 253.66
Hispanic students: 259.99
Asian-American students: 300.54
As judged by a very rough, though common-used, rule of thumb, those black kids are 4.5 years behind their white counterparts—at the end of eighth grade! That was our Los Angeles story. It's a story you'll never see discussed by your favorite corporate stars.

Last week, this Los Angeles story was discussed in the New York Times. In the course of that discussion, our Manhattan mystery broke out.

The Los Angeles story was discussed in this opinion column. Back east, most likely in Manhattan, someone had decided to put the column in print—and at one point, the ccolumn said this:
KAPLAN (8/15/18): I believed, even as a fifth grader, that education is a social contract and that Los Angeles was uniquely suited to carry it out. Los Angeles would surely accomplish what Louisiana could not.

I was wrong. Today Los Angeles and California as a whole have abandoned integration as the chief mechanism of school reform and embraced charter schools instead.
According to the Times identity line, the author teaches writing at Antioch University, Los Angeles. Within the context of the column, it seems clear that she is saying that "integration" should be "the chief mechanism of school reform" in L.A.

Hence our Manhattan mystery! The mystery shapes up like this:

Why would someone at the New York Times decide to publish a column advancing such a suggestion? We ask that question because student demographics within the Los Angeles public schools look exactly like this:
Student population, LAUSD
Latino students: 74.0%
White students: 9.8%
Black students: 8.4%
Asian-American students: 6.0%
That's a perfectly fine-looking mix to us. But who are you going to "integrate" there? And after you've accomplished this "integration," what is supposed to happen? How is that "integration" supposed to address those giant achievement gaps?

Our Los Angeles story is simple. Those punishing achievement gaps plainly suggest that there's room for major improvement in L.A.'s schools, even room for "reform."

Our Manhattan mystery is this:

Why would someone at the New York Times think it makes sense to see "integration" as the answer to this Los Angeles problem?
When we write about urban schools, is there any requirement—any expectation—that our work needs to make any sense?

As Moses says to the Holy Trinity in the old Paul Reiser joke:

As we really going to play some golf? Or are we just here to BLANK around?

Tomorrow: The indifference keeps rolling along

BREAKING: Letting the actual truth be the truth!


How do we think Trump got there?
As far as we know, the New York Times' Megan Twohey is the world's finest person.

We thought her front-page report in October 2016 involved a boatload of bad judgment, on Twohey's part and on the part of her editors. In our view, it seemed to be the final act in a 25-year propaganda war against Clinton and Clinton, with a side trip added on to defeat Candidate Gore.

In the end, this mainstream propaganda war put You Know Who where he is. In that sense, we'd have to say that this endless mainstream press corps war worked out very badly.

We liberals sat and twiddled our thumbs while this war was carried out. In 1999 and 2000, we twiddled our thumbs for twenty straight months while the War Against Gore was conducted.

Given this basic history, we liberals may be the most inept political tribe ever seen on the face of the earth. That doesn't mean that Megan Twohey hasn't done other good work.

That said, we were struck by something Twohey said on MSNBC last night. Ali Velshi was guest hosting for Ari Melber. At one point, Michael Cohen's guilty pleas prompted this exchange:
VELSHI (8/21/18): You know, Rudy Giuliani said truth isn't really the truth the other day, so I'm curious, Megan, as to what this does. What happens next, right? Because there are a whole lot of Americans thinking that's got to be it. This has to be the end of the legitimacy of the Trump presidency, if you believed there was any shred of legitimacy left. But the fact is, what happens next?

TWOHEY: Yeah, I think one of the big questions is—and I don't know if this is happening while we're on the air right now. But what are Republicans in Congress saying?

VELSHI: I haven't seen anything yet.

TWOHEY: What is the political reaction going to be if this is not something that's going to be handled in criminal court against Trump—you know, honoring the not indicting a sitting president? What are the political implications, what are those going to be?

And then I think that there's also just this. I think there's also this:

You know, I was involved in the coverage of the Harvey Weinstein story and the whole Me Too movement. And I just think culturally it's important—campaign finance violations and the technicalities of these aside—it's really important to note that this was really a conspiracy to silence women who had stories to tell.

These women didn't say they were victims of sexual misconduct. In both cases, they said they had been involved in consensual affairs with Trump. But I do think it's important to step back and recognize that culturally, this was—these were powerful men who were making payoffs to silence women.
That was the end of Twohey's statement. Here's what we saw in that overall exchange:

First, Velshi started with a reference to the new, all-purpose "truth isn't truth" bromide. Already, this is Instant Pundit Gold, ranking with any reference to "what the meaning of is is," or with any pathetic joking claim about what Candidate Gore allegedly said he invented.

This bromide gives pundits a bit of filler which will gain universal approval in any conceivable circumstance. They'll be killing time for years to come with the all-purpose "truth isn't truth."

We thought Velshi's throw-away was sad—but we thought Twohey's presentation was more striking. According to Twohey, the payments to Stephanie Clifford and Karen McDougal should be viewed this way:

"It's really important to note that this was really a conspiracy to silence women who had stories to tell...These were powerful men who were making payoffs to silence women."

Did Clifford and McDougal "have stories to tell?" To the extent that they did, their stories involved their decision to engage in consensual sex with a married person back in 2006.

Full stop! As Twohey noted, neither woman was claiming that she had been the victim of sexual misconduct. They'd simply had sex with a married person a rather long time in the past. So thrilling! So exciting!

We can't imagine why anyone would want our White House elections to turn on the "telling" of such utterly pointless "stories." That said, let's try to get clear on one basic point:

No one stopped either woman from simply "telling her story!" Either woman could have "told her story" whenever she chose to do so.

Karen McDougal could have "told her story" any time she pleased. But the fact is, these upright citizens didn't want to tell their stories. Instead, they wanted to sell their stories. The women wanted to sell their stories for big, fat bags of cash.

Eventually, Clifford came up with a story about being threatened in 2011. By now, that once-exciting "true crime" tale seems to have gone the way of all flesh. It no longer seems to be a story her lawyer wants to tell.

At any rate, Clifford could have "told her story" any time she pleased in the summer of 2016. But she wasn't trying to tell her story. She was trying to sell her story, for example to Slate. (Jacob Weisberg finally told her that Homey don't play that game.)

Stephanie Clifford and Karen McDougal wanted to score big piles of cash for "telling their stories" about having consensually [BLEEP]ed someone ten years in the past. At this juncture, our liberal/progressive tribe is so lost that we're treating these women as cultural heroes—and we're peddling the childish version of this affair, in which each woman had "a story she wanted to tell."

Correction! Each had a story she wanted to sell. A bit like Vladimir Putin, they wanted to interfere in a White House election for financial gain.

We liberals today are so lost—so morally and intellectually inept—that we can't see the problem with conduct like that. Beyond that, we keep changing "sell" to "tell," playing a tired old game.

Our team is lost and deeply inept. How do you think Trump got there?